Dave Chappelle is one of the most famous and respected comedians in the world, but make no mistake: he’s had to bounce back from major failures and controversies to earn his standing in the entertainment world. Having survived the very real threat of being permanently blacklisted from the industry, he’s currently serving laughs in myriad forms. A new podcast, documentary, and multiple Netflix specials are just a few of the projects he debuted over the last year, and all were a welcome respite during the pandemic.
But perhaps you’re wondering if his latest pursuits can ever make up for the money he lost when he ditched his namesake show in 2005. The answer might surprise you. Find out Dave Chappelle’s net worth in 2022 and get more details on his future plans in comedy.
Dave Chappelle Walked Away From A $50 Million Contract With Comedy Central
Many people believed Chappelle had reached the height of his fame in the early 2000s when he was the star, writer, co-executive producer, and co-creator of Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show. But it turns out there was more in store for the comedian than doing Rick James impressions.
In 2004, he was the subject of a bidding war between multiple networks. Chappelle reportedly turned down an eight-figure offer with FX and signed a $50 million deal to stay with Comedy Central for the series’ third and fourth seasons.
It was an astronomical sum, but it came with a lot of expectations. The contract required Chappelle to star in a film project for Paramount Pictures; it also involved a development deal for his own production company, Pilot Boy Prods. It was an opportunity for Chappelle to dominate big and small screens—a huge victory for someone who got his start by sneaking into comedy clubs at 14.
But in a sudden turn of events, Chappelle pulled the plug on himself. In May 2005, he unexpectedly left the show and took off for South Africa, bringing production on Chappelle’s Show to a sudden halt. Unfounded rumors about his mental well-being and potential drug use spread like wildfire. Who would walk away from their responsibilities like that?
“I was talkin’ to a guy… he basically said to me that comedy is a reconciliation of paradox,” Chappelle said. “And I think that that was an irreconcilable moment for me. That I was in this very successful place, but the emotional content of it didn’t feel anything like what I imagined success should feel like. It just didn’t feel right.”
Chappelle ultimately traded his fortune for sanity.
“I found an altitude I was comfortable with,” he said. “I found a way that—to do what I liked to do and avoid some of the parts of it that I was uncomfortable with… if you look at me… I’m, like, 40 pounds heavier than I was when I did Chappelle’s Show. And people are like, ‘How did you gain all that weight?’ By resting and eatin’ and payin’ attention to myself. I have actual relationships with my kids.”
He Has Made Millions From His Deals With Netflix
Chappelle made up for the money he lost when he inked a three-special deal with Netflix for $60 million in 2017.
He also made amends with Comedy Central. In November 2020, weeks after Chappelle’s Show began streaming on Netflix, Chappelle released an 18-minute video explaining that he was never paid for the series.
“When I left that show, I never got paid,” he said. “They didn’t have to pay me because I signed the contract. But is that right? I found out that these people were streaming my work and they never had to ask me or they never have to tell me. Perfectly legal because I signed the contract. But is that right? I didn’t think so, either.”
Chappelle made a personal appeal to fans to boycott the series, and out of consideration for the comedian, Netflix took the program off its platform. As a result, he promptly re-earned the rights to his show and was compensated for his work by Comedy Central. Better late than never.
“I asked you to stop watching the show and thank God almighty for you, you did,” Chappelle said. “You made that show worthless because without your eyes it’s nothing… And when you stopped watching it, they called me. And I got my name back and I got my license back and I got my show back and they paid me millions of dollars. Thank you very much.”
He added, “after all these years, I can finally say to Comedy Central, ‘It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.'”
Dave Chappelle Kept Comedy Alive During The Pandemic
Over the last year, Chappelle has unleashed a torrent of exciting new projects. For starters, he hosted a series of socially distanced comedy shows and music events last summer. Guests included John Mayer, Sarah Silverman, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Jon Hamm. He used footage from his own performances for the moving Netflix special 8:46.
And in June 2021, he debuted David Chappelle: This Time This Place. The documentary follows Chappelle’s efforts to bring levity during the pandemic—all while coming to grips with the social justice movement sparked by George Floyd’s death.
He is also busy with plans to open his own comedy club. In December 2020, Entertainment Weekly reported that Chappelle’s company Iron Table Holdings finalized a deal to purchase and renovate a former fire station in Yellow Springs, Ohio for the project.
Finally, Chappelle has joined the rest of the comedy world by starting his own podcast. He currently co-hosts The Midnight Miracle with friends (and Black Star rappers) Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey. The show is an experimental mash-up on conversations, sketches, special guest appearances, and music.
Dave Chappelle’s Net Worth
You’d be surprised at how he spends (or saves) that seven-figure fortune. As serious fans know, he lives a very modest life with his wife and three children in the small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio.
“Turns out you don’t need $50 million to live around these parts, just a nice smile and a kind way about you,” Chappelle said at music festival in his hometown in 2006. “You guys are the best neighbors ever. … That’s why I came back, and that’s why I’m staying.”